HondA and the British Talent Cup 

When the Bennetts British Superbike Championship finally gets underway after its Covid-19 enforced delay to the start of the 2020 season, a new and expanded British Talent Cup will be one of the showcase support races at each event. 

The British Talent Cup is a series designed to identify and showcase talented young riders, and it's open to entrants between 12 and 17 years old who want to become the next generation of MotoGP contenders. The series started in 2018 and has proved so successful that it's now about to enter a new expanded era of competition. 

The age group and technical regulations of the BTC mirror those of the already extremely successful European Talent Cup, which like the BTC, is also promoted by Dorna – the promoter and commercial rights holder of MotoGP. The British Talent Cup is part of Dorna's Dorna's Road to MotoGP program, and it will now become the sole British Moto3 Championship class in 2020 with a ten-round, twenty-race Championship. 

Backing and enthusiasm for the BTC from Dorna and the Bennetts British Superbike Championship is now so strong that the event has been secured this year, next year and the 2022 season. 

We spoke to Stuart Higgs, Series and Race Director of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, about the British Talent Cup and finally getting things underway after the coronavirus delay.  

When it comes to the importance of the BTC, Stuart is clear: "It's probably the single biggest motorcycle racing youth development and scouting series that the domestic scene has ever seen," he told us. 

Nothing like it has really existed for far too long, and we probably have to go back to the late 1970s and early 1980s to the Reference Series to think of anything even remotely comparable. 

The BTC aims to bridge the gap between Britain's well developed domestic racing scene for juniors and the very highest echelons of racing. In its first couple of years, the BTC followed a similar "X-Factor" system for admission that's used elsewhere in the world, which here in Britain was a selection event held at Silverstone before the British GP.  

According to Stuart, what Britain has been lacking until now has been a structured was for rider to graduate from the domestic youth championships to MotoGP, and the BTC will now fill that role in its new expanded format. 

Stuart explained: "In the UK we have perhaps the most mature and well established national championship anywhere in the world, but what we don’t have is perhaps the discipline, structure and direct connection to get into world championship level." 

BTC is designed to rectify the existing situation that isn't seen as ideal for young British riders hoping to make it to the elite level. What's been happening until now is that young riders have felt it necessary to give up on the domestic scene entirely and go straight to Spain at school age to get the best chance of progressing.  

"That's recognised as being quite disruptive to the kids' academic lives, it means massive upheaval for a family and significant expenditure," Stuart admits.  

Stuart is convinced that the way the BTC is structured from this year going forward is a big step forward, and the way Dorna will now be concentrating its efforts on what it does best will be a huge boost to the whole event and for British motorcycle racing in general. 

"The involvement of Dorna as the global MotoGP organiser will now be for them to use all their expertise in their talent promotions departments, which have done a fabulous job around the world of finding new riders and bringing them through their various championship structures into the world championship. It allows them not to have now, as they did in the two previous years, the responsibility and huge financial and organisational burden of running the whole championship." 

For the first two years of the BTC, Dorna was completely responsible for providing all the bikes, all the mechanics and the infrastructure, which Stuart says was "a massive, massive undertaking." From now onwards, the BTC becomes a regular championship where the riders and teams are self-funding, and this is perhaps where the decision for all the bikes to be identical becomes most crucial.   

just ride find out more honda engine room

The bikes being used in the BTC are the same model already used in the European Talent Cup and the Asia Cup; the Honda NSF250R. The engine is a 249cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC single-cylinder unit that develops a maximum 34.5 kW at 13,000 rpm and a maximum 28 Nm of torque at 10,500 rpm. The bike features an aluminium twin-tube frame, inverted telescopic front suspension, Pro-link swinger rear suspension and a six-speed constant mesh transmission. 

Obviously, there's room for the teams to make essential but limited adjustments to the Honda bikes to suit their riders, especially as there can be significant size differences with the 12 to 17-year-old age range. However, the rules are extremely strict to make sure all riders are competing on a level playing field. 

Stuart wholly endorses the NSF250R as the specified bike for the BTC. "The NSF250R was the deliberate choice. It's proven so successful not only as our Moto3 standard class bike for the last few seasons, but it's also used in the European Talent Cup and the Asia Talent Cup so it's the international motorcycle of choice for riders between the ages of 12 and 17." 

The importance of using the same bike cannot be overstated in this environment. Stuart explained: "No matter where you are in the many Talent Cup programs that go around the world, you’re on that same bike. It therefore doesn't come down to cheque book racing where you can have the most financed rider buying any level of equipment that's better than anyone else on the grid. That's a massive levelling factor."           

As well as fighting it out on the track for championship points, BTC riders will also be competing for a prize fund for those who finish in the top ten of each race, front and/or rear tyres for podium finishers from series' partner Dunlop, and end of season prizes for the riders who finish in the top three places in the championship.  

However, what the young riders will be most focused on will be the chance to be the Dorna-selected rider from the British Isles to compete in the 2021 FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship on the Road to MotoGP, or one of two riders will also be picked by Dorna to compete in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Selection Event for 2021. 

The British Talent Cup really is an incredible opportunity for the riders involved, and it also promises to be a real spectacle at each Bennetts British Superbike Championship weekend for at least the next three years. There will be two BTC races before each of the nine rounds of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, and a season highlight event at the British Grand Prix. 

Stuart Higgs is convinced that having a new structure and format for the BTC for at least three years is extremely important for rider development here in the UK. He says: "We've (the Bennetts British Superbike Championship) made a commitment, alongside Dorna, that it will run in this format for this and seasons 2021 and 2022.  

I think that in all things, stability is key. Lessons learned from the past tell us when you don't have that long-term strategy you don’t get the investment or commitment that you need. This will now be the reference championship for career-minded riders and teams that want progress." 

As well as being a great talent showcase with the opportunity up for grabs of a full season in the FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship the following season, the British Talent Cup is also a fantastic showcase for Honda as the motorcycle manufacturer of choice for the series. The whole industry is involved in a big push to get more young people interested in getting onto two wheels at the moment, so seeing these young stars of the future all riding the same Honda machines is a huge endorsement and a fantastic shop window for the world's biggest motorcycle manufacturer. 

Stuart Higgs, Bennetts British Superbike Championship Series Director :

“The British Talent Cup has evolved this season and the new partnership with Honda UK shows this country’s combined commitment to working with Dorna to find the UK’s newest potential MotoGP talent.”

Neil Fletcher, Head of Motorcycles at Honda UK:

“We are proud to be announced as the Title Partner for this key support championship to the highly popular British Superbike race series. The British Talent Cup series provides a fantastic platform for young riders to put themselves on the road to stardom with the ultimate target of racing in the MotoGP World Championship.” 

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports:

"We are very happy to see Honda take on this important role in the British Talent Cup. Honda are such an incredible force in motorcycle racing, and we have already had the pleasure of partnering with them in a number of Road to MotoGP programmes. It makes me proud to see our relationship strengthen once again, this time as part of the British Talent Cup as we work to create more solid foundations for the champions of the future."

British Talent Cup at Silverstone

British Talent Cup at Silverstone